French baroque opera has the reputation of being somewhat boring compared to its German and Italian equivalents. No one who attended the performance of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich could possibly agree. The solo arias may be less brilliant…

Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsi Fair is a strange work. Based on a story by Gogol, it deals with life and love in a Ukrainian village and with superstitions which are all-pervasive there. The plot is, to say the least, thin.  The Devil…

One does sometimes encounter the revival of a production nearly thirty years after it was first presented, particularly if it is of a very popular opera in an international house and used primarily as a vehicle for jet-setting star singers….

Johann Christian was the only Bach son to have had a cosmopolitan career and to write for the opera house. His last opera Amadis de Gaule, first performed in Paris in 1779, shows how he had successfully assimilated contemporary developments…

The succession of long da copo solo arias in Handel’s operas pose a dilemma for stage directors. Should they stop the action and allow the audience to concentrate on the music? Or, fearing boredom and at the risk of distracting…

The steady decline in the amount and quality of classic plays performed in theatres in England seems not to have attracted much attention and, in any event, little protest. In the second half of the 20th century, one could find…

La Malquerida by Manuel Penella, performed at the remarkable Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, is the second zarzuela I have seen and heard. As I pointed out in relation to Federico Morena Torroba’s better known Luisa Fernanda…

The critics have not been kind to the Frankfurt revival of Smetana’s Dalibor, in particular directing their ire at Florentine Klepper’s staging. I disagree totally with their judgements: it was an exhilarating evening of musical theatre. Let me begin with…

Alberto Ginastera’s opera Beatrix Cenci is a grim, not to say, horrid, piece about male dominance, savagery and debauchery and the desecration of the female body. Containing incidents of rape, incest, and murder, it is not everybody’s idea of an…

Hans Werner Henze’s Prinz von Homburg is a deeply affecting opera drawn, but distanced, from Kleist’s drama of the same name. He and his librettist Ingeborg Bachmann were concerned to use the early 19th century material on militarism, disobedience and…

The current revival at the Old Vic of Arthur Miller’s The American Clock prompts some thoughts on current trends in theatre productions and the problems that they create for audiences. In a number of recent revivals of the classics, there…

The charming little Silesian town of Opava has a population of only 60,000 yet still maintains a permanent opera ensemble, which tells you much about the state of culture in this part of the world. Rachmaninov’s Aleko, new to me,…

The Secret is a typically bucolic piece by Smetana, telling the tale of a young man Kalina who had won the love of Róza but lost her when her father disapproved of the match because he was not wealthy. Rather…

Don Carlo contains some of Verdi’s finest and most inventive music to underpin the drama of the encounters between the principal characters but it also poses problems in performance because its various themes – thwarted love, individual liberty, State versus…

Sometimes one is at a production which takes an innovative approach to a familiar work and during the earlier part of the evening the predominant response is one of irritation, whether this results from the weight of tradition affecting one’s…

Two electrifying performances by Rattle and the LSO: Mahler’s Ninth at the Barbican and Janacek’s Sinfonietta at the Edinburgh Festival. Honegger‘s masterpiece Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher performed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the inspired direction of Stéphane Denève. A superb…

Winter Solstice by Roland Schimmelpfenning performed by the Actors Touring Company A powerful but subtle exposition of the seductiveness of fascist-speak, given a Brechtian interpretation by the performers half-narrating, half-acting the text.   A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by Shakespeare’s…

DIRECTORS Olivier Py: Dialogues des Carmélites, Caen Stephen Medcalf: Idomeneo, Buxton   DESIGNERS Markus Lüpertz/Ruth Gross: Una cosa rara, Regensburg Pierre-André Weitz: Dialogues des Carmélites, Caen   CONDUCTORS Daniele Gatti: Rigoletto, Rome Ulf Schirmer: Ring des Nibelungen, Leipzig   SINGERS…

The Teatro San Carlo in Naples might not seem to be the most obvious venue for a performance of Janáček’s Kaťa Kabanová, but the opera company’s music director Juraj Valčuha is Slovakian, the production by Willy Decker was imported from…

Rigoletto is such a familiar piece that directors wanting to leave their imprint on it are tempted to turn it into something grotesque, vulgar or – worse still – trivial. Not so Daniele Abbado at the Rome Opera. Although he…